Prior to being elected to the superintendency in 2020, you served 8 years as a Levy County school board member. In what ways do you feel your service on the school board prior to being elected a Florida public school superintendent helped to prepare you for your role as the education leader of your community?
I have been very blessed to serve the citizens of Levy County for 9 years. My roles both as a School Board member and now as Superintendent of Schools gave me the ability to see the duties from each side of the District. The biggest asset for me was the professional development that FADSS and FSBA consistently offer each year to grow in each role. Levy County Schools (LCS) has had great leadership in School Board members and Superintendents and I am honored to continue to help LCS and our community grow.
As a school board member, one of your key priorities was implementing career and technical education (CTE) programs in LCS. Now with three programs dedicated to aquaculture, hospitality management and sewer certification, how do you envision further strengthening CTE access for students and why?
Our District has made CTE a priority for our students. We recognize that not every student will go to college therefore we have to create opportunities for these students. Our District has had strong programs in Health Occupational Field that has created the road map for many students to leave us with a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) Certification and continue on in the nursing field. These new programs coupled along with already established programs in Building Construction, Agriculture and Business/Computer Technology gives our students a wide array of areas to search out career paths. We will continue to evaluate new career pathways that LCS can tap into for our students. Our Goal is every kid is either in CTE or Dual Enrollment/AP.
What was the impetus that led you to pursue being a public school superintendent?
I believe the impetus that led me to serve the citizens of Levy as the Superintendent was truly being called by my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the desire to be a force of positive change in education in Levy. I felt it was placed on my heart that I had plateaued as a board member and our citizens were looking for a change in leadership and so I answered.
One of the key platform priorities of your candidacy for superintendent was a PreK through 2nd grade Reading Initiative to have every child reading on grade level by 3rd grade. What steps have you taken as superintendent to move this forward?
Our Commissioner of Education and leaders in the business world point to students reading on grade level by 3rd grade as a key benchmark and we are slowly making growth in this area. District leadership before me created a Coordinator of Literacy who works closely at the school level with reading coaches and is in classrooms modeling for teachers. Our District staff understand our goal is to push back down into classrooms and support our teachers. LCS recently started a 3-year grant with the Northeast Florida Education Consortium (NEFEC) focused on rural literacy, and we had representation from each of 6 elementary schools to work on implementing new strategies. While we are still in the infancy stages, I know this strategy will pay dividends in the coming years.
What do you feel is the most challenging barrier at this time in meeting the educational needs of students in your district?
Levy is so blessed to have community schools, but this strength is also a barrier. Having small schools creates opportunities students may not have at a larger school, but is draining on resources. Another true barrier is transportation with the vast geographical size of Levy County. I’m never one to dwell on our barriers but keep striving for solutions for a better Levy!
What do you feel is the most pressing issue facing public education as a whole?
I believe the biggest issue public education faces is we must do a better job of sharing the amazing things we have going on in Florida. It is difficult because you never want to come across as braggadocios but in Levy County our students have left us and went on to be U.S. Congressman, NBA Assistant Coaches, teachers, business owners and even a public school Superintendent.
You recently were awarded the 2021 STAR Superintendent Award from the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations (CFEF), which recognizes individuals for championing community and business involvement in education through their local education foundations. What do you feel is the biggest benefit of fostering strong private-sector support of public education through local education foundations?
It was extremely humbling to be selected as the CFEF Star Superintendent, particularly given that the list of leaders who have preceded me is made up of giants in education. I know in Levy County the communication and cooperation of our business leaders in our local Educational Foundation is vital to our students and staff success. Whether it is a fundraiser that gives classroom grants for teachers or our new mentoring program with Seniors at our elementary schools, LCS couldn’t do it without these partnerships. Businesses understand the investment in our students will pay off in dividends for generations!
During your tenure as a superintendent, is there an individual(s) that has served as a mentor to you and/or you admire for their positive impact on you?
I have been blessed with many mentors through the years. Superintendents Rick Shirley (Sumter County) and Sherrie Raulerson (Baker County) and NEFEC Executive Director Dr. Patrick Wnek are three individuals that I reach out to many times to glean the wisdom these three have. I also talk regularly with many of my incoming class of Superintendents. I can’t thank FADSS enough for paring new superintendents with veterans for mentorship.
Any additional comments & thoughts you would like to share?
I would like to Wish everyone a Happy New Year! I appreciate FADSS and if I can ever help someone please don’t hesitate to reach out.